Acoustic tiles are one of the most common sound treatments for residential and commercial spaces. But with so many different materials and types to choose from, it can be a challenge finding the right solution for your space – what works for your home may not be as effective for a corporate office.
Acoustic tiles are designed to improve the sound quality and noise levels in a particular room or space. They’re used in offices, schools, recording studios, churches, and even residential homes for a variety of applications.
As sound waves are produced, they scatter around open space, bouncing off hard surfaces like walls, ceilings, and floors. This creates inconsistencies in sound quality. But acoustic tiles fix this issue, absorbing sound waves as they make contact with the tiles. The energy is absorbed and dispersed within the acoustic material, rather than reflecting back into the room. Among other benefits, this leads to improvements in speech intelligibility, audio clarity, and the overall energy of the room.
Benefits of acoustic tiles
Reduce echo and reverberation
Hardwood floors and bare walls may be the modern look you’re going for, but they’re ruining the feel of the space. As sound waves bounce off the hard surfaces, they reflect around the room, resulting in echoes and reverberations. Not only are they distracting, but they make it impossible to have a conversation or clearly hear the music being played.
Immediately after installation, high-quality acoustic tiles will reduce the echo and reverberation, producing clear sounds that aren’t too loud or muffled.
Improve sound quality
Acoustic tiles do more than just reduce unwanted echo. They also eliminate high frequencies and disperse directional sound, helping to cut down on bleed. And with strategic placement and design, they’ll make your space feel warm and inviting. You’ll finally be able to clearly hear your family, friends, coworkers, and new surround sound system.
Which materials are used to make acoustic tiles?
Acoustic ceiling and wall tiles come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and materials, each treating sound waves differently. Their performance will depend on the shape and surface materials of your space and your ultimate design goals.
We’ve broken down the different types and uses for the most common materials for acoustic tiles. This guide will help you determine which option is right for you and your space.
Recycled acoustic tiles are the ultimate combination of look, feel, and sustainability. Made from recycled plastic bottles (rPET), these tiles improve your room’s acoustic quality by scattering directional sound and eliminating high frequency flutter in a variety of spaces like offices, churches, recording studios, living rooms, and restaurants.
With strategic placement on either walls or ceilings (or both), recycled acoustic tiles will cut down on bleed, improve speech intelligibility, and make your space feel warm and inviting. And if there’s a leak in your ceiling, you don’t have to worry about permanent staining or replacing the affected tiles, they can easily be cleaned with light soap and water.
When you think of acoustic tiles, acoustic foam is probably the first type that comes to mind. These absorption panels are often black or dark gray in color and shaped with thick grooves, these 2-4” foam panels are easy to install on ceilings and walls. And compared to other types, they’re a much cheaper option.
Mineral fiber acoustic tiles are the most common type of drop ceiling tiles, largely because they’re the most affordable option. This makes them a top choice for large commercial buildings like corporate offices, colleges and universities, and strip malls. But there’s a reason they’re so affordable – they look generic (think Dilbert's cubicles)!
And unlike recycled plastic tiles, mineral fiber stains easily. And if you experience any broken or leaky pipes in your drop ceiling, you’ll need to replace the tiles or be forced to stare at the unsightly stain.
Wooden tiles are often considered a more elegant, upscale acoustic material. They’re commonly found on the walls and ceilings of restaurants, corporate offices, and churches.
The absorptive panels improve both acoustic design and insulation and generally come in one of four textures: perforated, slotted, grooved, and wood wool. Here’s how each of them work:
- Perforated - small holes are drilled into the wood, making them effective absorption panels for low and medium-frequency sounds
Slotted - long, narrow slots are milled into the wood and the back is lined with an acoustic backing that absorbs and concentrates sound waves
Grooved - deep grooves are cut into the wood panel and the back is lined with an acoustic backing, resulting in a combination of absorption and controlled sound wave reflection
Wood wool - made from wood fibers, cement, and water, wood wool panels are effective at absorbing sound waves across all frequencies while also providing substantial thermal insulation
Wooden panels are generally better at absorbing sound than mineral fiber tiles, making them a more expensive acoustic design option.
Fiberglass tiles are composed of glass and resin fibers, which result in a lightweight, plastic-like material. Commonly used in commercial and industrial buildings, they’re a cost-effective option for large spaces that need to reduce structural and mechanical sounds.
However, many fiberglass panels are not a very attractive design solution. They are often covered in cheap textiles. They’re also bad for the environment – fiberglass is hard to recycle. Lastly, exposure to fiberglass can irritate skin, eyes and airways, making them more difficult to handle.
Perforated metal tiles are a modern-looking acoustic option commonly used in upscale offices, hotels, museums, and restaurants. And unlike most acoustic panels, certain metal panels can be used outdoors as well, great for indoor/outdoor bars and music venues. They’re made from high-quality metals like galvanized steel, stainless steel, aluminum, or corrugated metal, each of which treats sound waves differently.
Unlike most acoustic panels, metal tiles reduce echo and improve sound quality by dispersing sound waves rather than absorbing them. They also provide noise attenuation from the adjacent to the treated space, meaning fewer distractions from the surrounding rooms, both to either side and above your space.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do acoustic ceiling tiles have asbestos?
Modern acoustic ceiling tiles do not have asbestos. In fact, it’s estimated that just 5-10% of ceiling tiles in the US contain asbestos. If you’re concerned that the ceiling tiles in your space may have asbestos, you should get them tested immediately to prevent serious medical complications.
Brands that were known to manufacture acoustic tiles with asbestos include Armstrong Corporation, Celotex, Conwed, Owens, Corning, Flintkote Company, National Gypsum, United States Gypsum, and Affa Tile Company.